Game Changers: EverdreamSoft on Blockchain Gaming
EverdreamSoft (EDS) is a Swiss-based company developing mobile games and applications driven by blockchain technology. Though blockchain has emerged as the trend to watch in practically every industry, EDS stands out, having pioneered the use of Initial Coin Offerings to raise funds for their fantasy card-trading game, Spells of Genesis, in 2015 — before the phenomenon even had a proper name.
The entire game has been built on a blockchain trading system developed in response to the needs of their community. Now, the company is helping other studios build games that make blockchain invisible to players while allowing for a whole new way of thinking about games.
Eryk Salvaggio talked to Nicolas Sierro and Marketa Korteova of EDS about blockchain and the future of gaming while they were in San Francisco as part of the Swiss Games cohort at GDC 2018, part of swissnex San Francisco’s continuing look at the emergent future of Storytelling & Interaction.
SPELLS OF GENESIS
Marketa Korteova: Our game, Spells of Genesis, is a mix of an arcade game and a trading card game. Three years ago, we did an ICO, and issued our own cryptocurrency, BitCrystals. It went really well, and allowed us to start development of the game. At the same time, we started to release some game items — digital cards — and we were selling them. It’s crazy, because the game didn’t even exist then. Two years before we released the game, people were already collecting these cards. They could be used in the game, but they were also collectible items.
Why were people buying cards for a game they couldn’t play?
Marketa Korteova: When we started, the cards we created were inspired by blockchain personalities, blockchain events, all kinds of blockchain allegory. So people liked these topics, they liked the design of the cards — the drawings were really nice, so they wanted to collect them.
Nicolas Sierro: For the cards we would say, “This is a limited edition,” and release only 300 or 500 cards, for example. So that creates scarcity. But people also want the cards because they’re powerful in the game. People knew that they could eventually use these cards.
BOOK OF ORBS
So you had to build a place to keep these cards, and the tokens. Traditionally that’s a digital wallet, which can be difficult for people to set up and use. How did you approach that?
MK: With a classical wallet, you just have a list of assets with weird names, and you don’t know what they really are. It’s not very user-friendly. That’s why we released Book of Orbs — it’s a collection album which displays the visuals associated with a token. So our wallet is more for gaming, for collecting game items.
NS: We released Book of Orbs not only for our cryptocurrency and cards, but also for other games and other collections. It’s essentially a collections app. Usually, if you have a token on the blockchain, you can just attach a very small image to it. The concept of our collection app is that you can add rich media to create a better experience for users.
SHARING THE CHAIN
How have other studios reacted to this idea?
MK: We came to San Francisco as a part of the SwissGames delegation, and were surprised to see how many blockchain products there are. There are more competitors now, but we’ve created working products using the technology, which puts us a step ahead of many others. It helps us that so many people are offering blockchain platforms or products, because it means that people are more aware of blockchain and how this technology can be used in gaming. A year ago, it was like, “blockwhat?”
NS: We often participate to events like GDC to present the benefits of blockchain in gaming, the possibility to have player-customized avatars, etc. We give other studios the opportunity to create their own assets during these events. For them, it’s an easy way to test the idea. They can create a collectible from their game and it can appear in ours. Players in our community are interested in this kind of interoperability.
MK: It’s also a great way to promote a new game. If a studio adds their game, or even just an asset, then the whole community of players can discover it.
ICOS BEFORE THEY WERE ICOS
I’m curious about the initial coin offering you did. How did that come to be? You did it before the ICO fever really took over.
NS: It had no name!
MK: Yes, the term “ICO” didn’t even exist then.
NS: We did our token sale three years ago. We had to explain everything to those interested: what’s a cryptocurrency, why it’s good to have a game on the blockchain, etc. We had to describe how the value could grow if the game was a success.
How did you explain it?
NS: This was the process: we take all revenues from the game, then we burn half of that value of the currency, BitCrystals — basically, we send it to an inaccessible wallet. So over time, there is less BitCrystals available, but more demand for it. This means an increase in value. Every month, we issue a report showing the amount of BitCrystals burnt. It’s transparent, as is everything in the blockchain.
Where did you get the idea to use blockchain in your game?
NS: The idea came from the needs of players. In a previous game, our community of players was a reason for its success, and we wanted to reward them. In this game, players could trade cards. People did it a bit, but then the cards were being sold externally on eBay, sometimes for more than US$ 1,000. And we would get messages from players saying they’d paid for the card but never received it. Fraud was a real issue and we had to find a solution to this problem.
By transferring our digital assets on the blockchain, it’s transparent. Players have full ownership of their assets in a secure way. With the trading exchange in Book of Orbs, we can see what’s being exchanged between wallets. If there’s an order to sell, and an order to buy, then it’s done automatically.
MK: A lot of people are still afraid of the blockchain, they believe it’s too technical for them. But we provide tools like the wallet that can simplify their access to and experience of the blockchain.
NS: You don’t need to buy blockchain cards to play our game. There are in-game cards and you can get more powerful ones through in-app purchases. But eventually, players notice that there are these blockchain cards and are curious about them. They create an account in Book of Orbs, add a fraction of bitcoin, buy BitCrystals, and then purchase some blockchain cards. But this is just one aspect of the game. People who play and notice the blockchain, we let them know how they can set up the wallet, buy cryptocurrency, and add cards to the game.
So you ease players into it on their own time?
MK: This is another step after leveling up and improving your cards. If you do that in a traditional game — spending a lot of time and money improving your card or your character — you asset is always locked in the game. There’s nothing else you can do with it. But by blockchainizing the card (that is, transferring it on the blockchain for a fee), you can extract it from one game and exchange it, trade it with other players, or even use it in another game.
NS: This is what we do when we help other game studios. We start integrating blockchain, and we make it so that their gaming assets are playable in our game, or one of our cards is playable in their games. It’s a multi-game, multi-player, multi-card concept.
THE FUTURE OF STORYTELLING
That also opens up a whole new way of telling stories in gaming. How could it change the way these stories are created?
NS: First, users will always prefer to play games in which they have true ownership of their digital assets. Pressure from players could change the market. In a lot of games, all you have is an account, and if the game studio shuts down, you have nothing left. With blockchain-based assets, if you play and have a dragon, you can sell it to another player. So there will be pressure from players who enjoy true ownership and this will definitely influence their spending decisions.
Second, think about people who are very good at creating a game’s universe. They can make interesting characters, animals, tools, and weapons to tell a story. In the future, they could create this world on a blockchain, publish it, and say: “Hey, game developers, you can use all my elements if you want.” Stories, images and even sounds could be used by game studios, and that’s quite valuable for the content producer who creates that world and shares it on the blockchain.
And by value, you mean actual financial rewards, because people can tokenize it, buy it, trade it…
MK: Exactly. It helps to create a much fairer economy around game assets. If you can draw, but don’t have game design skills, you can produce really nice drawings, attach them to a blockchain asset, and sell it. And a game designer who likes this blockchain asset may buy it, integrate it into his game, or combine it with other elements to make something new. That’s what’s so exciting about all the opportunities the blockchain is offering!
Once called "the Harry Potter of the Digital Vanguard," Eryk studied new media art and journalism at the University of Maine and Global Media at the London School of Economics.
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Photos courtesy EverdreamSoft.